On estimating the memory for finitarily Markovian processes

Gusztav Morvai, Benjamin Weiss

Finitarily Markovian processes are those processes $\{X_n\}_{n=-\infty}^{\infty}$ for which there is a finite $K$ ($K = K(\{X_n\}_{n=-\infty}^0$) such that the conditional distribution of $X_1$ given the entire past is equal to the conditional distribution of $X_1$ given only $\{X_n\}_{n=1-K}^0$. The least such value of $K$ is called the memory length. We give a rather complete analysis of the problems of universally estimating the least such value of $K$, both in the backward sense that we have just described and in the forward sense, where one observes successive values of $\{X_n\}$ for $n \geq 0$ and asks for the least value $K$ such that the conditional distribution of $X_{n+1}$ given $\{X_i\}_{i=n-K+1}^n$ is the same as the conditional distribution of $X_{n+1}$ given $\{X_i\}_{i=-\infty}^n$. We allow for finite or countably infinite alphabet size.

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